Officers targeting motorists with revoked licenses With list from MVA, police are staking out homes of offenders

October 17, 1997|By Laura Sullivan | Laura Sullivan,SUN STAFF

Two Anne Arundel County police officers fed up with pulling over the same drivers with revoked licenses time and again figured that maybe the state Motor Vehicle Administration could find them a list of all such offenders.

Lt. Russell Hewitt and Cpl. Robert R. Buckingham have been hunting illegal drivers since then and may have inspired a statewide push to find such drivers and ticket them in a bid to get them off state roads.

The two officers didn't realize what they were getting into. They called the MVA about two months ago and asked for a list of drivers in Pasadena and Central County who had been convicted of driving at least four times since a judge revoked their licenses. They figured they'd start small.

It took some digging at the MVA because no one had asked for such a list before. But the agency reported back that its computer system apparently was equipped with a program that can sort drivers by license status: revoked, suspended or current.

The computer spewed out 144 names.

Police have arrested about a half-dozen people who are repeat violators or had warrants outstanding from earlier cases. And those successes have prompted state police to look into copying Anne Arundel County's model across Maryland.

With practice, the Arundel officers are getting better at foiling the evasive tactics of illegal drivers.

Events such as Baltimore Orioles playoff games can throw a wrench into a night's work.

On a recent evening stakeout, for example, Officer William Ei waited behind a pair of binoculars for a Pasadena man to return to his neighborhood. The Sun can't print his name because no arrest was made.

"You've just got to be patient," the officer said. "I'm used to just going out and getting somebody."

Ei scanned his MVA printout about the man, who has several traffic convictions and drunken-driving convictions. Ei said he probably would be easy to catch behind the wheel were it not for the playoff game that night, which was likely to keep him off the road.

"Them going into extra innings doesn't help much either," the officer said.

Some repeat offenders try to elude officers. One Pasadena man who eluded officers dispatched his wife to drive around the block several times to make sure the coast was clear before he jumped into the driver's seat. Another stood in his yard in pajamas with his morning coffee scanning the neighborhood with binoculars.

The list includes many married couples, both with revoked licenses, and people whose privileges were revoked decades ago.

There's an asterisk next to the name of a Pasadena man who has continued to drive despite the revocation of his license -- 37 years ago. In the 1970s, he applied for a license under a slightly different name, but officers note his record under that name hasn't been much better.

Capt. Gordon Deans, who oversees the program, estimates that 50 percent of the drivers on the list also have multiple drunken-driving convictions or outstanding warrants on those pending cases. One has a printed driving record 50 pages long.

So many cases are included that officers are targeting only the most serious offenders, such as those who lost their licenses because they drove while intoxicated or were involved in hit-and-run accidents.

Those whose licenses were revoked because they failed to pay child support or to appear in court won't be targeted until later, Deans said.

Ei said he has little sympathy for those who say they have to drive in this county of crisscrossing freeways and few buses.

"Buses do run out here," Ei said, waiting in the shadow of a wooden fence in the Bay Ridge Beach neighborhood. "And if they have to, they can take a cab.

"These people have plenty of rights. Driving is not one of them."

If they are caught, they stand a greater chance of drawing jail time, he said.

Just being on the list doesn't mean a person is breaking the law today, police acknowledge.

Although it's rare, Ei said, officers have found at least one person on the list who is getting around legally.

He has taken up bicycling.

Pub Date: 10/17/97

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